Let’s just clear the air by stating the obvious. These aren’t normal times. COVID-19 and social distancing have turned upside down much of what we understand about our culture and our businesses.
Many small businesses and food-providers are struggling with the new realities associated with staying at home and are understandably hyper-focused on finding customers and staying afloat until we can return to business as usual as we know it.
But if you haven’t yet tapped into your local scene or want to increase your brand loyalty in your own community, here are three ways you can make changes to your business today to increase local sales and grow your brand loyalty now and in the long term.
My own family is a good example of how spending habits are evolving right now. We’re almost entirely reliant on local products and services today…and it’s fantastic.
So, why did we make the switch?
We want to help, as many do. We want the businesses in our community to weather this storm
We want to avoid grocery stores
The selection is better. Even when we make it to the store, it’s usually slim pickings
The quality is better. In particular, ordering direct from farmers has drastically improved the quality of meat and dairy products in my household.
It makes life easier. The restaurants in my area that have switched to family style meals and curbside pickup or delivery take some pressure off of us to cook after a stressful day at home balancing work and children.
Close to 90% of our household goods now come from local businesses and farms, as opposed to roughly half before COVID-19. This includes necessities like coffee, meat, produce, eggs and dairy, and honey (ok, I get that honey isn’t a necessity for most people, but we go through a lot of it in our house). We’ve also increased our spending on take-out from local restaurants.
Your business matters to your community, now more than ever. Here are some ways to connect with people like me who need your products right now, whether they know it yet or not.
Marketing on social media is not a new idea, but right now is an excellent time to double down on your efforts in these channels. Social media usage has spiked considerably, with unprecedented growth being reported across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
Here are some ways to stay engaged on Facebook during the pandemic (Choose the channel of your choice here; Facebook is the one I’ve seen businesses have success with, so I will use it as an example):
Regardless of where you live, there are Facebook groups for your local community. My small town, for example, has a group just for information and menu sharing for the restaurants that are still open. Do some digging and join as many applicable groups as you can.
Don’t spam people in your new groups but be consistent and transparent about your offerings. Create and maintain a schedule for posting your current offerings in groups and on your business page. Let people know you’re open and how they can buy from you (your site, delivery services, pick up, etc.). Post about specials, discounts, or do product features to remind people that you’re available.
Make sure your business page is up to date. Add the right phone number (your cell, for example, instead of your office phone). Clarify if there are changes or delays to the ordering process due to the coronavirus. Set up chat on your business profile and double check any outbound links to your site, ordering portal, and any other information people need to complete a purchase. Include instructions for check out, follow up, and your preferred means of communication.
Adding your city and state information to your website can be a powerful way to attract local customers through Google and other search engines.
First, you’ll want to add your city and state to your site’s title tag. This information will show up on a search results page, looking something like this:
On a website builder, this information typically lives under ‘SEO’ or within page information. In Shopify, for example, you’ll find it under ‘Website SEO’.
Finally, to see your current set of metadata, try searching for your site in Google, like this: site:YOURSITEURL.com. You should see a list of your site’s pages in the results.
You can also integrate your location into your meta descriptions, where it’s logical and applicable. For example, I added it to my About page:
Your site’s schema markup, or structured data, helps search engines like Google crawl your site more effectively, and adding your location is a powerful way to surface your site to local viewers searching for similar products.
While it sounds complicated, it’s actually quite manageable to do, even for those of us without technical backgrounds:
On WordPress: You can use the Schema App Structured Data plugin to guide you through this.
By Hand: Google has a free tool called the Structured Data Markup Helper. Just add your site url and select Local Businesses, then click Start Tagging. The tool will guide you through the rest.
Make sure you input your name, address, phone number, and hours of operation. Here’s a full list of available fields for you to choose from.
Claiming your business on directories like Yelp and Google My Business (GMB) can have a huge impact on your SEO and are great for showing local customers that you’re active and engaged.
Once claimed, update your information and take advantage of the coronavirus messaging available on directories like Yelp to include your new services and hours.
If you’re unsure what directories you’re currently listed in, Moz has a free assessment tool you can use to test your site.
Nurturing your leads and engaging with your current customer base is a great way to turn a one-time customer into a repeat customer who supports your brand consistently. Email is one of your best methods for doing this. Here are some foundational steps you can take to get your email channel up and running:
If you haven’t already, add an email opt-in to collect customer information on your site. Ideally, your new customers who land on your site to browse will sign up, and you can then ‘nurture’ those leads to make a sale (And return to make a second sale. And so on). Get creative with content that suits your business: a quiz, newsletter, or coupon promise are great incentives to encourage someone to provide their email address.
Consider your current customers. When’s the last time you emailed them about a promotion or even a company update? Now, I’m not suggesting you close this page and go send a COVID-19 email update (please don’t do that); but, you could reach out with an offer or discount code for a product you know they’ll love. You can also email them to let them know you’re fully operational, or to encourage them to buy with a discount coupon or other incentive.
If you’re looking for additional support setting up drip campaigns, adding your local SEO, or know you could benefit from the help of a professional website copywriter, I’m happy to help.
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